I strive to do my best to avoid apologetic topics that hinge on experience, since one person’s experience can conflict with another person’s experience, and it is difficult to be objective in deciding which is genuine. So I never gave much thought to claims of out of body experiences and near death experiences (OBE / NDE).
I recently ran across an article that is making me consider NDE more seriously. A trained and experience neurosurgeon had an NDE and is writing about it. See the articles here and here. This is significant because this man, Dr. Eben Alexander, is an expert in the brain, and claims to have medical tests to show that his brain was shut down during the period of his exprience.
Other research is being done by Dr. Gary Habermas (see here). Some of Habermas’ research claims to have documented people who related facts that happened outside of their physical ability to see and hear, even if they were not in a death-like state, even though they were. If these things can be documented with physical evidence, it takes the NDE’s out of the realm of experience into empirical data.
It would appear that more research should be done, and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss this as halucinations or too much anchovi pizza.
I find it interesting that a medical expert trained in the operation of the brain ends up concluding that consciousness is not an emergent property of the brain. Other evidence supports this, as can be found in the research on the problem of consciousness (see The Mystery of Consciousness, by John Searle).
I am not ready to embrace such accounts as evidence for theism. But I do take this as one more indication that pure materialism is an inadequate explanation for the world.
As Christians, we must take such accounts and measure them against our theology. Dr. Alexander met a spirit being who gave him messages like “you are loved and cherished” and “you have nothing to fear.” Such statements remind me of the many that are reported to come from appearances of Mary . . . statements that are inocuous and do not tell us much. Until spirits embrace sound Christian theology, we should be wary for hidden serpents.